Coming Out

by Erik

I guess I always knew I was gay, and never recognized it was "different" because my parents were rather liberal in their views. Despite my mother being a staunch Roman Catholic, and my father being politically conservative, they never deemed it necessary to tell me how I should live. They always told me to do what I felt was right.

This isn't to say they promoted the gay lifestyle, just that they said that no one was any different because of their color, religion or whatever. They never really said anything about gays at all, so I was never alerted to the fact that there was anything different about me.

So at the tender age of five, I trundled off to school. As a child, my paramount concern was learning to read. (On the first day of school, when my parents picked me up after school, I was mad. When they asked why, I said it was because they didn't teach me how to read.) By the time I was six, however, I was exposed to the way of the (straight) world. The school I went to was a Catholic grade school, and periodically there would be speakers.

One of these speakers was some sort of religious zealot and he spoke about the "homosexuals" and how they would do bad things to us. Being gullible children, we bought it hook, line, and sinker. I didn't think there was anything wrong with me or the fact that I was a little boy who found the other little boys to be the only interesting things on the playground.

As time went by, I began to get moody and sad for no apparent reason. I soon arrived at the conclusion that the only way that I could be happy was to follow the lead of the other boys. I soon had the whole charade down pat, and soon, I had a few girlfriends. They were nice, but I wasn't really interested in them, so I just became the little geek boy outcast archetype, which lasted until I entered junior high school when I connected with the "bad boys" and got into a bit of trouble. I then went back to being a "good boy."

As I was in the closet, I continued to have girlfriends, and the joke around my house was "a new girlfriend per week." These relationships were meaningless to me but they served a purpose. I didn't have any real guy friends and I still wasn't happy with myself and how I was doing in life. I began to play serious soccer -- it was my only outlet.

But it became a source of tension when I went on road trips with my team. We traveled to other towns to play in tournaments. Logically, we had to spend the night, and not having much money, we had to share beds in the hotel rooms. Talk about being scared stiff! It wasn't funny, it was scary!

I began to get depressed, and wanted to know why. Soon, the exciting world of high school came into the picture. My first year was boring and my social life was nil. My more-than-somewhat overprotective mother had a hand in the fact that I never went to a "real" party. Maintaining a relationship with a woman was more than I could handle and I wanted to make a change. I began to try to get better grades in an attempt to do something good for a change.

In my sophomore year, I met a friend who had been out to some people at school. She had been out since eighth grade, and I was intrigued by the subject of homosexuality. We talked and sort of kept our talks superficial. I went on vacation with my family that summer and I kept meeting nice boys all summer. At the beginning of my junior year, I was beginning to search within myself and decided what I wanted to do with myself. My aspiration was to be a happy person.

Then, in the late winter, the saddest thing to ever happen in my life happened. My father died in February. I was forced to deal with the problems in my life. I had been contemplating coming out to my parents for a while and my fathers' death prompted me to reevaluate my life in as many ways as I could. By September 1995 (Senior year, after a vacation where I surfed with the cutest boys imaginable), I gently began to broach the subject to my mother.

She eventually got the gist of what I was saying. She didn't believe me at all and ordered the subject dropped. I began to close up again until I made friends with a shy girl and a loud boy. The shy girl was receptive and gave me an outlet (I had since quit soccer) but after a while, she freaked out and we sort of left each other alone. Meanwhile, my other friend was in a band and I wanted to be in the band, too. We bonded and he is still a great friend. He was the second person I told, as my mother didn't hear the important lines, "Mom, I am gay" until she asked me if I was ever going to get married and have kids (with a woman). I slowly fell in love with my friend and I felt it impossible to tell him that, although I tell him everything else in my life.

I began the coming out process at the end of high school to some friends and the reaction was a relief. They gave me support and friendship. Soon came yet another challenge -- college! Because I believe God has a truly queer sense of humor, I was accepted to my first choice of colleges, a small private Jesuit university in Denver, Colorado.

Yes, yes, Colorado, home of the infamous Amendment 2, scourge of many people who believe in civil rights. So as time came to journey off to school (again), I had to decide what to do about coming out to people whom I had never met before. On one hand, I could start off many relationships with a true picture of myself, and on the other hand, I was afraid of the rampant homophobia that was the norm at my old high school.

So, being a bit pragmatic, I decided to make the decision after meeting many of my future friends. (don't worry it will get a bit more humorous) On the first day, with my mother and sisters and brother in tow, I met my roommate. He was a rather short, hefty fellow and he was a bit loud also. He and his friend, both from south Texas, were both the picture of the straight man from Texas and my roommate also had a chip on his shoulder about his manliness (god knows why). He was a little prone to violent outbursts. My worst nightmares had been fulfilled: bigoted, straight, racist, and a little violent, so I decided not to come out to him at all.

For the first two weeks, it was "Hey, do you want to go to Hooters, or cheerleaders, or adult world?" And I would just say "Umm, no thanks." His friend was in the same academic program as I was and I came out to him after I had made some outburst at a retreat that we had all gone to. After I came out to him, I came out to a lot of people as fast as possible and I found that as soon as I had done it I felt better and better.

This is not to say that I don't get hassled, but I think that even having a shotgun pointed at you as you are told to leave a party or "bad things will happen to you, queer" is nothing compared to the amount of spiritual and relational happiness that I feel as an openly gay male on a catholic campus in Colorado.

If you are waiting, don't. Just do it! How would you feel if no one in your life at all knew the truth about you? Just be as happy now as you can be for you may not have the chance to experience life as fully as possible! We are all with you.

The author, Erik, may be reached online at erikw@regis.edu.
General information: Jeff Walsh
Design and HTML: Jase Pittman-Wells
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